Williams also seeking venue change in federal case
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Federal prosecutors have moved to dismiss the criminal charge — felon in possession of ammunition — that first got former downtown business owner Sean Williams in legal trouble.
Williams now faces a raft of other federal and state charges for alleged drug and sex crimes, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan Gomez filed a motion Monday requesting that Eastern District of Tennessee U.S. District Judge Clifton Corker dismiss count one of what is now a two-count indictment in the two-year-old case. Gomez’s motion asks that the charge be dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning it could be reinstated.
Williams, who could face up to 10 years on the charge if it’s not dismissed and he is convicted, was indicted by then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Kat Dahl in April 2021 following a Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) investigation. Police unsuccessfully attempted to serve a warrant for Williams’ arrest on May 5, 2021, and he was at large for nearly two years until being arrested in Cullowhee, N.C. on drug charges on April 29 of this year.
Dahl, whose contract was not renewed several months after the Williams indictment, sued Johnson City, the JCPD and its now-former chief in June 2022 for retaliatory discharge. Her lawsuit alleges JCPD essentially fired her after she pressed the department to investigate a string of suspected rapes tied to Williams. The city has denied those allegations.
Several rape complaints were lodged against Williams with the JCPD between 2019 and 2021, but he was not charged with any sex crimes until earlier this month. His new federal and state charges stem from Western Carolina University police seizing thumb drives and other digital storage devices and allegedly finding videos and still images showing dozens of rapes at Williams’ downtown apartment.
Williams’ 2021 federal case had an attempted escape count added to it Aug. 8. He is alleged to have attempted to escape from the Washington County Jail in late July.
Since August, Williams also has been charged in federal court with drug crimes related to the North Carolina charges and, most recently (Sept. 12), with the production of child pornography in Eastern Tennessee Federal District Court. His trial on the child pornography charges is set for Jan. 23, 2024 with a plea deadline of Jan. 9.
Williams was also indicted in Washington County, Tenn. Sept. 12 and charged with multiple child rape and aggravated sexual exploitation of minors charges. No hearing dates have been set in those cases.
Williams: New allegations, coverage make local fair trial impossible
Williams, through his attorney Bryce McKenzie, also filed a motion Friday requesting his ammunition and ammunition trial be transferred to the Eastern District’s Knoxville or Chattanooga divisions, or that a jury be selected from people outside the Tri-Cities media market.
The motion claims that since August, Williams “has received extensive, non-stop media coverage regarding other more serious criminal allegations including allegations of rape and child pornography.”
It claims the media coverage, which it calls “unfavorable and highly prejudicial,” has “incensed the public, thus creating a public outcry that leaves it impossible to pick an impartial jury within the Tri-Cities media market.”
The motion asserts that the coverage would lead “to an assumption of guilt” if a jury from the Tri-Cities media market is selected.
Williams is currently being held as a federal prisoner in the Laurel County Jail in London, Ky.